Inducing Breastmilk – with or without pregnancy – men too.
By Lenore Goldfarb, B. Comm, B. Sc., LE, IBCLC and Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
Based on the Original Induced Lactation Protocol conceived and published by Jack Newman, MD
A Word About This Guide
This guide to maximizing breastmilk production came about as a result of Lenore’s own experience with induced lactation. In 1999, she set about trying to find a way to bring in a milk supply for her son who was to be born via gestational surrogacy. Lenore contacted Dr. Newman as soon as she learned that her son was on the way, and together they set upon a journey that enabled Lenore to successfully breastfeed her son, who was born 2 months prematurely, from his second day of life. Lenore was able, with Dr. Newman’s help, to bring in an astonishing 32 oz per day without a pregnancy. Dr. Newman published the protocol that Lenore followed in a book he published in 2000. The protocols that follow in this guide were developed from ongoing research based on the original protocol that Dr. Newman conceived. Together, they have helped over 250 adoptive, relactating, and intended mothers to bring in substantial milk supplies. This guide has been through several revisions and they expect to continue to refine the protocols as more information becomes available to them through their research.
If a mother is committed to relactating, or breastfeeding her adopted baby or her baby born via surrogacy, she can do it. Any amount of breastmilk she is able to provide for her baby is a precious gift. Many women have induced lactation. In fact, in some traditional cultures, the baby’s grandmother induced lactation routinely in case the mother experienced problems. Lenore personally induced lactation and we are aware of at least 350 other mothers who were successful at inducing lactation. Induced lactation is also known as “adoptive breastfeeding” and refers to the ability for a woman to breastfeed without going through a pregnancy.
The information and recommendations that follow are derived from Lenore’s own experience with induced lactation and that of (to date) 350 other mothers that she and /or Dr. Newman have followed. They highly recommend that every mother who is inducing lactation consult her physician. If the mother’s physician is not yet comfortable with this process, a good lactation consultant familiar with induced lactation can be an invaluable aid. There is a website at www.iblce.org that has both a national and international registry where one can locate an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
The information contained in this guide should be forwarded to the mother’s physician and lactation consultant so that needed medications as well as follow-up medical and technical support will be available. The hospital where the baby is to be born should be notified in writing and verbally that that the adoptive or intended mother is planning to breastfeed. The hospital or birthing centre may have a lactation consultant who can help. Make copies of this information to give to any family members, friends, or medical staff, who may be unfamiliar with induced lactation and who may try to discourage the mother from giving her baby this precious gift.
The Biology of Induced Lactation in a Nutshell
It is not necessary to have been pregnant in order to breastfeed. During pregnancy a woman’s body produces increasing amounts of progesterone and estrogen (via the placenta) and prolactin (via the pituitary). These hormones ready the breasts for breastfeeding. Once the pregnancy is completed, progesterone and estrogen levels drop and prolactin levels increase resulting in lactation 2. The protocols outlined later in this document are designed to mimic what happens during and after pregnancy. See the “Introduction to the Protocols” for more information about hormones.
Once the milk supply is established it works on a “supply and demand” basis under the baby’s control if the mother is breastfeeding and under the mother’s control if she is pumping. The more often and the more efficiently the baby withdraws milk from the breast (or the mother pumps), the more milk will be produced by the breast. As the baby suckles at the breast (or the suction from the pump begins), a signal is sent to the brain from the breast that causes the release of oxytocin initiating the milk ejection or let down reflex (MER) causing the milk to flow. The release of oxytocin coupled with the draining of milk from the breast, causes the breast to produce more milk 3. This is one of the reasons for the use of the hospital grade double electric breast pump during the protocols. Stimulation by the double pump further increases prolactin and oxytocin levels, thus increasing milk supply.
Should the medical practitioner be concerned about the quality or composition of the mother’s breastmilk, the MICAM test may be performed to assess the various stages of the mother’s milk 4. Testing of the composition of the mother’s breastmilk may be done at a local laboratory. Studies have shown that if the breastmilk of a mother who has induced lactation is compared to that of a birth mother’s breastmilk at 10 days postpartum, there is virtually no difference 5.
Introduction to the Protocols for Induced Lactation
The protocols that follow are designed to prepare the mother’s breasts for making breastmilk, just as occurs during pregnancy. Until recently, the typical advice that lactation consultants and members of the medical profession suggested to women who were interested in adoptive breastfeeding was to either pump and stimulate the breasts or do nothing before the baby arrives, just put the baby to the breast when the baby arrives and in a while the mother may or may not have breastmilk. The option of pumping alone requires serious dedication and commitment to pumping and breast stimulation many times per day for several months.
Many mothers may prefer to go the route of putting the baby to the breast and waiting to see what happens, not using any preparation at all or any medication. This is a legitimate option but one that will much less likely produce significant amounts of breastmilk.
There is more to breastfeeding than breastmilk but if it is possible to breastfeed AND bring in the breastmilk…why not do it?
There is a concern on the part of many lactation consultants and medical practitioners about the use of the birth control pill. It takes some getting used to…the notion of using a birth control pill to bring in a milk supply when we in the “lactation field” are told that the combination birth control pill (estrogen and progesterone) is BAD for milk supply. The thing to remember is that these mothers are not lactating YET. The use of the birth control pill and domperidone enables us to provide 3 of the 4 necessary hormones to simulate pregnancy and induce lactation. The forth one being human placental lactogen which is only available with a pregnancy. The birth control pill can be started at any time in a woman’s cycle because she is taking it for her breasts not her uterus. In fact, her uterus and ovaries do not need to be present at all in order for her to induce lactation. Many mothers question the need to take birth control pills when they have had a hysterectomy. These mothers require assistance to understand that the birth control pill is not for contraception, it’s for her breasts.
Typically, patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization procedures are given the equivalent of 200 mg progesterone (vaginal suppositories) to help support and maintain their pregnancies while it only takes 1-2 mg progesterone (oral) to induce lactation. Another thing to remember is that these protocol are for the most part short term (less than 1 year).
Many have asked how we arrived at the current protocols. We followed a series of deductions:
a) Ladies on the birth control pill experience breast changes but they do not lactate. They can be on the birth control pill for YEARS and nothing happens after the initial increased
breast size if any.
b) Some ladies on the domperidone for upper GI dysfunction did experience, as a side effect, lactation depending on the dosage taken…so did men.
c) Combining the birth control pill with domperidone is similar to making water boil. The birth control pill is the water (breast changes) and the domperidone is the salt (prolactin) that makes the water boil (milk production) much faster.
d) Add the breast pump or the baby at the breast and the result is copious breastmilk production.
e) Add the herbs, oatmeal and water and we have the recipe for increased milk supply.
It’s as simple as that.
The protocols that follow involve the use of medications and herbs. There is the Regular Protocol, the Accelerated Protocol, and the Menopause Protocol. As a rule, the longer the mother can be on her particular protocol, the more milk she will end up with. The mother will need to take a monophasic large dose birth control pill non-stop, only active pills, no sugar pills together with a medication called domperidone (see the medications and herbs 1,2,3 below).
1) Domperidone: How it works and how it compares to Reglan
Several medications have as a side effect, the production of breastmilk. Digitalis, chlorpromazine and other major tranquilizers are just a few of them. With medical management, it is not necessary to have been pregnant in order to produce breastmilk.
Domperidone is an anti-emetic or anti-nausea drug that was initially prescribed for people with upper gastrointestinal problems. Domperidone is not a hormone but it has a side effect that results in an increase in prolactin levels. It was discovered that when some women would take the drug this increase in prolactin levels could in turn cause lactation. As with most drugs, very little of the domperidone ends up in the breastmilk. The baby gets only minute amounts. There is another similar drug that is found in the US called Reglan (Metoclopramide). However it is not recommended for long-term use in lactating women. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and can cause neurological problems and depression. Note that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics classification, Reglan (metoclopramide) is a drug “whose effect on nursing infants is unknown or may be of concern”. Domperidone is not known to cross the blood brain barrier in significant amounts and is used to treat chronic conditions that require it’s long-term use. It is not known to cause depression.
Since domperidone does not cross the blood brain barrier it is much safer for mother and baby. They even give domperidone to babies in Canada suffering from severe regurgitation. Right now domperidone is not widely available in the US except at a few compounding pharmacies but domperidone has been approved for use in breastfeeding mothers by the American Academy of Pediatrics (see below).
Domperidone General Information:
Domperidone is widely available in every country in the world. In the United States domperidone is not yet FDA approved but it is currently available at select compounding pharmacies with a doctor’s prescription. In Canada, domperidone was approved more than 20 years ago by Health Canada. This made it possible for a generic version to come onto the market enabling Canadians to obtain this medication economically.
Note that: It is perfectly legal for a US doctor to prescribe domperidone even though it isn’t available in the US. Any Canadian pharmacy can ship domperidone with a prescription from a US doctor. And it is legal for a US citizen to bring domperidone into the US for personal use provided it is accompanied by a doctor’s prescription, a letter stating that the medication is for the patient’s personal use, and the shipment does not exceed a 3 month supply (see FDA regulations below). Here is what Dr. Thomas Hale says about domperidone in his book “Medications and Mother’s Milk, 2002″, Pharmasoft Publishing, p. 230 Note: Please check with your doctor before beginning any medication.